Freedom to think

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Coaching centres kill the cognitive, creative and critical thinking skills of students

Mahesh Chandran (name changed) is a Class X student at a private school in Chennai. His typical day starts at 5.30 in the morning. After an hour of study, he is ready to leave for school at 7. His special classes commence at 7.30 and regular classes at 8.30. As soon as the regular classes are over at 3.30 in the afternoon, his one-hour special class commences at 3.45. He reaches home at 5.15 in the evening. After a 30-minute break, he rushes to a tuition centre and comes back home tired around 8. After dinner, he is made to study for about an hour and a half and is allowed to go to bed only after 10.30 in the night.

Till he completed Class VIII, Mahesh had a normal life and he used to take part in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities and play in the evening. Now, his parents seem to have forgotten that he is a human being with emotions. They do not allow him to socialise with any of his old friends and neighbours. Why this sudden change? In a parent-teacher meeting, Mahesh’s class teacher told his parents that if he worked hard he would be able to become a school topper. The teacher’s words had an impact on the parents and they enrolled him in a coaching institute and started treating Mahesh like a programmed machine. Mahesh’s passion, interests and talents have been buried ever since ‘special classes’, ‘coaching’ and ‘tuition’ have been added to his lexicon. This is the story of Mahesh and many other children in “modern” cities and big towns.

Is this modern education? Isn’t it unethical on the part of school administrators, teachers and parents to deny students their right to enjoy their normal student life? Isn’t it a crime to deprive students of their opportunity to experience academic freedom? Isn’t it unfair on their part to strip students off their normal childhood?

Past and present

In the past, only those who were not good at certain subjects attended coaching classes. Never did parents proudly state that their wards attended coaching classes. Now, more and more students enrol themselves in coaching centres and every day new tuition centres spring up. Gone are the days when no student was encouraged to go for tuition and teachers were not permitted to give private tuition outside class hours. In the past, whatever was taught in school was enough to succeed in exams and score good marks. But now the trend is different. Even academically bright students attend coaching classes. Home tuitions are also becoming popular. A friend who runs a school said, “These days running a coaching centre is more profitable than running a school.” No regulations. Coaching centres can charge any amount of money. Many teachers who used to work in private schools have quit their jobs either to start or to join existing coaching institutes.

Factors

A hype has been created that coaching classes lead to academic success. Students have been made to believe that without coaching they cannot succeed in their exams and score good marks. Teachers themselves encourage their students to attend special classes and coaching sessions so that their students score better marks, and they, in turn, get rewards and awards. Schools want their students to get ranks so that their “fame” is spread and which, in turn, results in more admissions. Parents are made to believe that tuition is the key to academic success.

Negative impact

Many coaching centres do not explain concepts but spoonfeed students as their motive is not to help students acquire knowledge but to score marks. Students are driven to memorise readymade answers. They do not concentrate on subjects in regular classes at school and depend more on their tuition instructors. Readymade notes given to students do not allow them to refer to any other books, and spoil their learning experience. Constant tests, exams and comparison of marks scored affect them psychologically and create a complex in them. In brief, coaching reduces students to marks-scoring machines and kills their cognitive, creative and critical thinking skills.

Measures

What measures should be taken to tackle the menace of mushrooming of coaching institutes? Schools should ask teachers to teach various subjects properly. Teaching should never be replaced by coaching. There should be no special classes for students up to Class IX. School authorities should not encourage teachers and students to use guides available in the market. Any teacher who encourages students to use guides is a bad teacher. No teacher should be allowed to give private tuition.

Last word

Parents should become aware that the schools that produce good results (in terms of pass percentage) need not always be the best schools. There are many other factors that make a school a good school. School administrators, teachers and parents should know the rights of students and treat them as human beings and not as machines. It is critical thinkers who can contribute better to society and make this world a better place to live in.

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